Oneohtrix Point Never, the musical project of Daniel Lopatin, has for some time operated on the borders of kitsch, plundering so-called ‘low art’ and reassembling its pieces in new ways to create something much less accessible. This is as true as ever for Garden of Delete, but this time even the genres of music from which Lopatin borrows are further out than his usual easy listening fare. There are digitised versions of extreme metal tropes, ironically counterposed with those of trance music. It’s an album of intensity, but always undermined in some way.
It’s also more than this; a multi-format alternate reality game accompanies the album itself, including bizarre music videos and blogs. On some semi-ironic level it’s a concept album. You don’t really need to engage with this dimension of it to appreciate the music, but it all contributes to the slimy, otherworldly texture of the album. Lopatin’s music feels alien, but is always built, in truly postmodern fashion, out of the cultural detritus of our world.
The album’s first proper track after intro, ‘Ezra’, starts out in pretty familiar territory: a sparse arrangement of synthesised notes slowly developing into something more conventionally recognisable as music. But about a minute in, a burst of intense, driving EDM music interrupts, coming to a noisy climax before returning us to the song’s regular sound. This happens a lot on Garden of Delete, a sudden, sharp contrast serving to highlight the music’s odd melting-pot of influences.
“the album itself proves that its creator has a special talent for creating poignancy out of disorder, beauty out of trash”
On album highlight ‘Sticky Drama’ a chorus that sounds like something PC Music might release is surrounded by passages that have a sound somewhere between industrial and black metal. This is a good place to point out that, although there’s a layer of postmodern irony over the album as a whole, it doesn’t lack for genuine feeling. The climax of ‘Sticky Drama’ really does feel transcendent, in its own strange way.
‘SDFK’ is perhaps the most straightforward track. It’s a minute and a half of ambient noises with a driving noise music ending that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ben Frost album. ‘Mutant Standard’, in contrast, clocks in at eight minutes and is inevitably a looser piece of music. It has its moments, but feels more like an experiment than the more tightly focused tracks on the album.
The second half of the album seems to take on a more mournful, subdued tone, with, for example, ‘Animals’, sounding more like a funeral dirge than anything. Again, it’s quite genuinely moving despite its weirdness. ‘I Bite Through It’ sees a brief return to the earlier intensity, before the final few tracks close the album in this newly melancholic vein, with highlights including the ending of ‘Freaky Eyes’ as it disintegrates into noise, the guitar solo inserted halfway through ‘Lift’, and ‘No Good’ in its entirety, a carefully constructed coda for the album with a real, stirring sense of finality.
Lopatin works with a patchwork of disparate influences that, by all rights, should produce something ugly and unlistenable. It should be a shambles. But the album itself proves that its creator has a special talent for creating poignancy out of disorder, beauty out of trash.